Ben Lummis, former NZ Idol winner, helps celebrate Youth Week 2013
'I'm no legend, I'm a regular guy working with youth and trying to make a difference.' - Ben Lummis, former NZ Idol and Youth Horizons personal advisor.
Youth Week 2013 is this week and its focus is on finding those that are proven to "Live like a legend". Ben Lummis is a legend to many young people in New Zealand. He knows first-hand how difficult it can be to overcome challenges to success. He uses his life experiences both good and bad to help young people who have made bad choices.
A former NZ Idol winner in 2004 when he was just 25, singer Ben now works as a personal advisor to young people aged between 15 and 20 at Youth Horizons.
All of the young men whom Ben works with at Youth Horizons have been referred by Child, Youth and Family and have undergone a variety of assessments. All have come from troubled backgrounds and have been in foster care. One young man had been through 60 different foster homes during his short life.
'We do our best to ensure that by the time they leave Youth Horizons they have formed strong support networks and friendships. We help them to do this. Success is when these things are in place and they no longer need our help to get on with their lives.'
When the young person turns 17, prior to discharge from the care of Child Youth and Family, Youth Horizons is contracted to support the young person to learn the skills they need live independently in the community through to the age of 20.
"Sometimes all they need is a role model, someone who can relate to them and show them a different way" says Ben.
Poor choices in Ben's life at age 15 meant he became deaf to the advice of his family and fell seriously behind in his schooling.
'My mother kept telling me I needed to get my act together,' says Ben. 'But it wasn't until I was 17 that I realised she was right. Now I try to show the young men I work with that they have options, to help them learn to be independent. '
Always having a passion for singing, a turning point for Ben came when at 19 he attended the Excel School of Performing Arts in New Lynn. Ben says, 'Competing in NZ Idol was one way for me to show that I was able to work hard and succeed if I put my mind to it.'
After graduating he took two jobs to make ends meet – delivering newspapers from 4-6am and then working as a teacher aid from 8.30-3pm.
'I had to learn to be a man. I didn't have much money to live on. It was my first time flatting and I had to learn to budget. I can empathise with young men, knowing what it's like to have no money for food. But I also call them out on what they do with it, if they're spending all their money on drugs, alcohol and cigarettes rather than food, I ask them what they could do to improve their situation.'
The young people who come to Youth Horizons are dealing with a big range of issues.
Ben advises 'There may be bumps along the way in their life journey'
And then adds 'I don't think they need to be legendary, as long as they realise that whatever their history is it shouldn't stop them from making a good future'.